Welfare benefit changes: What is changing in April and how will it affect you?

The changes represent the biggest shake-up of the welfare system for years.
The changes represent the biggest shake-up of the welfare system for years. Photo: PA

A raft of changes to the welfare benefits system this April began to come into force on Monday, with more being introduced throughout the month.

The changes include:

Housing Benefit - from 1 April

A protestor take part in a demonstration against the so-called 'Bedroom Tax'
A protestor takes part in a demonstration against the so-called 'Bedroom Tax' Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images
  • The under-occupancy penalty, dubbed a 'bedroom tax' by opponents and a 'spare-room subsidy' by ministers.
  • Housing benefit will be cut by 14% for those deemed to have one extra bedroom and 25% for claimants with two or more spare bedrooms.
  • Around 660,000 families will lose an average £14 housing benefit a week in the move ministers hope will save £500 million a year.

Who is affected?

  • Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the extra benefit).
  • Couples who use their spare bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation.
  • Parents whose children visit but are not part of the household
  • Disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties.

Source: National Housing Federation

Case study: Diann and Tony are full-time carers of a disabled child affected by the changes

Watch: Chancellor defends welfare reforms and hits out at critics

Exemptions

  • Parents with adult children in the armed forces (or reservists) who normally live with them.
  • A disabled tenant or partner who needs a non-resident overnight carer.
  • Foster carers if they have fostered a child or become an approved foster carer within the last 52 weeks.

Discretionary Housing Payments

  • An additional £25 million per year will be available from 2013/14 to help with the introduction of this change. This extra funding is aimed at disabled people living in significantly adapted accommodation.

Read: DWP guidance on the removal of the Housing Benefit spare room subsidy

Council Tax benefit - from 1 April

The Government has abolished Council Tax Benefit
The Government has abolished Council Tax Benefit Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
  • Council tax benefit has also been replaced by a new system run by local authorities but with 10% less funding.
  • Councils will be responsible for administering its replacement called the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
  • They have had to decide whether to absorb the ten per cent cut, or make the poorest people, who tend to be those who are eligible for the benefit, pay
  • Under the new scheme pensioners will be protected.

Read: Find your local council for more information on the council tax changes

Some people may find that the benefit changes hits their pockets.
Some people may find that the changes hit their pockets. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Social Fund reform, from 1 April

  • Community care grants and crisis loans for general living expenses have been abolished.
  • Local authorities will be responsible for administering local assistance in England, Scotland and Wales.
  • If a crisis loan is needed to cover the period before an initial benefit payment, is received, a Short Term Advance, can be requested from the DWP.

Read: The Citizens Advice Bureau offers guidance about changes to welfare benefits

Benefits uprating, from 6 April

  • Working-age benefits and tax credits will rise by a below-inflation one percent.
  • It is the start of a three-year cap that represents a real-terms cut.

Disability Living Allowance replacement - from 8 April

  • The personal independence payment scheme will begin to be introduced for people with a health condition or disability aged 16 to 64.
  • From April, it will be introduced for new claims in Merseyside, North West England, Cumbria, Cheshire and North East England. It will be introduced for all new claims from June 2013.
  • Currently, there are no current plans to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children under 16 and people aged 65 and over who are already receiving it.
  • Some people may require an assessment to work out the level of help needed.
  • Most people currently getting DLA will not by affected by the change until 2015, according to the government.

Check how the Personal Independence Payment affects you with this tool

Armed Forces Independent Payment, from 8 April

The Armed Forces Independence Payment is a new benefit
The Armed Forces Independence Payment is a new benefit Credit: Press Association
  • The Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP) is a new benefit to provide additional financial support for seriously injured service or ex-service personnel.
  • It is designed to cover the extra costs they may have due to their injuries.
  • It will be paid at the rate of £134.40 per week.
  • It is being introduced in light of changes to existing welfare benefits
  • Payments will be made by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Read:Frequently asked questions about the Armed Forces Independence Payment

Benefit cap - from 15 April

A cap on the total amount of benefit people of working age can receive with be introduced
A cap on the total amount of benefit people of working age can receive with be introduced Credit: Press Association
  • A cap on the amount of benefit people of working age (16-64) will be introduced.
  • It will begin in four London boroughs of a £500-a-week cap on household benefits, and of the new Universal Credit system.
  • The trial will affect people living in Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey.
  • A limit will be put on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get.
  • The benefit cap will be introduced in all other council areas between 15 July and and 30 September 2013.

Find out if you will be affected and how your benefits could be reduced

Universal Credit pilot, from 29 April

  • The transition to a new Universal Credit scheme which will replace the current system of working-age benefits and tax credits begins with a trial in test areas.
  • It will replace income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credits, Housing Benefit.
  • From October 2013, people will be able to make new claims while claims for existing benefits and credits will be gradually phased out.
  • From April 2014, all new claims will be for Universal Credit.

Find out more about the Universal Credit on the DWP website